As of today, Kyrie Irving will not be playing for the Nets this season. This could change if Irving decides to obtain the COVID-19 vaccination or if the city of New York lifts its vaccine obligation, but neither of these things appears likely at this time.
As a result, Kyrie Irving will be compensated for the road games he will miss owing to the team’s decision not to accommodate him as a part-time player but will lose half of his season’s pay for the home games he is unlikely to play in.
The Nets are looking to move forward, as James Harden stated that they have “a job to do” and are “completely focused” on winning a championship with their current squad.
However, this is a club that was created around the concept of having three superstars in Kyrie Irving, Harden, and Kevin Durant, but now finds itself with a major void to fill and, for the time being, no viable options.
Irving isn’t punished since they can’t legally do so under the CBA because he isn’t breaking any league rules, thus there’s no way for him to reclaim his roster place. Instead, the Nets will have to make do with 14 players and a pair of two-way players for this season, which is still expected to be a title or bust.
However, the team’s future appears uncertain, as Kevin Durant signed a four-year agreement this offseason, but neither Irving nor Harden have committed beyond this season — both have player options for 2022-23.
Both were expected to get and sign max extensions at some time, but Irving has put a wrench in the works, according to Shams Charania of The Glue Guys Podcast. Irving will no longer be receiving a $186 million contract offer from the Nets, according to Charania.
“At the end of the day, he was prepared to forgo $16 million in pay for this year and $186 million in an extension that he will not be granted today,” Charania said of Irving.
Part of the problem for the Nets is that even if they don’t extend Irving, they won’t be able to replace him on the free-agent market because adding Harden’s max to their 2022-23 books pushes them over the cap.
As a result, the clock will be ticking on possible Kyrie Irving trade talks with the Nets, which Charania notes on the pod will have to be considered, and while his value is nowhere near what it once was, there are teams that would be at least intrigued by the possibility of dealing for Kyrie Irving— even if there are rumors he will retire if traded.
All of this is to imply that Irving’s refusal to get vaccinated has put a team that had seemed certain to be a title contender for years in jeopardy.
Harden signing a contract deal isn’t a given, but it’d be shocking if he didn’t, and with Kyrie Irving reportedly not in the long-term plans, the Nets need to start thinking about Plan B for building around Durant.
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